Young People in Upper Egypt

From the World Bank:

This study was published about five months ago; I came across it now. Very interesting statistics:

While the great stretch of land from south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo to Lake Nasser on the border with Sudan, the area known as Upper Egypt, has only 40 percent of the country’s population, it is where 80 percent of the severe poverty is concentrated.

Consider also these figures:

  • More than half the population of Upper Egypt is under the age of 29, and one third are between the ages of 15 and 29.
  • Upper Egypt is predominantly rural with 75 percent of its young people living in rural areas.
  • Upper Egypt accounts for only 40 percent of the country’s population but 60 percent of those living in poverty and 80 percent of those living in severe poverty.
  • The country poorest 1,000 villages are almost all concentrated in three governorates in Upper Egypt.
  • Over one third of all young people in Upper Egypt are in the poorest wealth quintile.
  • The official youth unemployment rate in Upper Egypt is 16 percent, which does not count the ‘jobless,’ those neither employed nor seeking work, a state that describes almost half of all young people in Upper Egypt.
  • 70 percent of young women in upper Egypt are jobless.
  • Illiteracy rates for young people in Upper Egypt are at 17 percent, higher than the national average, with illiteracy rates for females more than twice those of males.
  • Less than 4 percent of illiterate females are employed.
  • Returns on education in Upper Egypt are high, with labor force participation rates for female university graduates as high as 58 percent, higher than the national average of 47 percent, and 84 percent for male university graduates.
  • Almost all young women in Upper Egypt with no formal education are jobless.

While it is perhaps fitting the World Bank did not make a point to inquire about the religious affiliation of these youth, it would have been useful to see the results of a scientific study. It did state in the footnotes that nearly 6% of Upper Egyptians are non-Muslims, without providing a link to source or methodology. It also called Upper Egypt one of the areas with greater Coptic concentration.

Certainly Christians here will dispute these numbers, which indicate a weakened, slowly dwindling presence. If their greatest concentrations in numbers reach only 6%, what of the rest of the nation?

Well, most emigrants from Upper Egypt wind up in Cairo or Alexandria, so perhaps scientific studies might show these cities with the greatest concentrations nowadays. It should be a simple matter to establish census figures – every Egyptian has his religion printed on his ID card – but it is too politically and religiously controversial.

On the one hand, it doesn’t matter – Egyptians are Egyptians regardless of religion. On the other hand, it means everything – if 15-20% they are grossly marginalized; if 5-6% their rights are still important but their claims are greatly diminished. Will the state and/or the church have the courage to take this issue on transparently? Or is it best for everyone if it remains purposefully ignored?

On a closing, unrelated note, I was surprised to see a link to my report on the attack on the Coptic sit-in at Maspero. I’m glad that was helpful to the World Bank.

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